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Local family among model search finalists

The Brian and Meagan Blietz family is among the finalists in the North America's Cutest Family benefit contest.

Brian and Meagan Blietz of New Richmond are the finalists in the 2010 International Charity Model Search to select North America's Cutest Family and to raise funds for the nonprofit "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Foundation."

The Blietzes are clients of participating photographer Stacey Knoebel of Knoebel Portrait Design in Roberts.

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization committed to assisting parents and families going through the difficult time when they experience an early infant loss. It connects families with volunteer photographers and provides them with a reproducible CD of the images of their baby at no cost to the family. For further information on the organization, visit their Web site at

Participating photographers submitted portraits of local families for online voting and the finalists were determined by the most online votes. Each vote was $1, and all proceeds from those votes benefit "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep." Last year's competition featured 2,000 model's images and raised $164,775 for the organization.

The Blietzes are now in the running for the last stage of the contest, the grand prize international winner, determined from the 52 city finalists. Many prizes will be awarded, and the grand prize winner receives a new car.

The winners will be selected from the finalist gallery by photography and modeling industry experts. The winning family also receives a session with the renowned portrait artist Sandy Puc' and international recognition, as well as being the live models for her tour stop on April 24 at the Mall of America Grand Ballroom. The tour is for professional photographers and is designed to help them increase education in their craft and learn to market in new and fun ways. All prize winners will be announced during the April 24 seminar.

Knoebel has been a professional photographer in the St. Croix Valley and eastern Minnesota area since 1997. She started Knoebel Photography out of her home in 1997 while working full-time as an executive assistant in St. Paul, Minn. In 2001, she decided she needed to be her own boss and started full-time in photography. In 2004, Knoebel opened her studio.